Buying a Car in Costa Rica

Meet Skittles, my new road dog.

I’m so excited that I am now mobile in Costa Rica. It didn’t take long for me to realize that having a car here would be very helpful. The area around Santa Ana, where I live, is walkable however, in the rainy season, walking is not the best option. Also I really want to explore the country.

Skittles is the brightest colored car I have ever owned and it all started one day when I arrived at work. In the parking lot, I saw the cutest, small, lime green car and it instantly brought a smile to my face. It was at that moment that I decided I wanted a car that made me smile too. I wanted a car with personality, a bright colored car that would stand out.

Buying a car in a new country can seem daunting so here’s my experience and I hope it helps someone. The most common ways of finding a car here include: Facebook Marketplace, traveling to Grecia (an area filled with lots of car dealerships, reminds me of Passyunk avenue in Philadelphia, or a car mall), visiting local auto dealers and 2 popular websites: encuentra24 and crautos . Two of my coworkers went to Grecia and said they were overwhelmed. I had success using crautos.com.

Checking out a few cars and then taking a mechanic along with you when you find a car that you are very interested in, seems like the best choice. Thankfully, my schools H.R. department has connections and hooked me up with a mechanic. Skittles came from a private owner. The couple were/is super nice and bought the car to my condo for me to view and test drive. The mechanic also met at my condo. He charges a fee of 50,000₡ ($80) each time. Thankfully, I only needed to use him once. He completed a diagnostic check right there, took the car for a spin and then gave me his approval. I told the couple I wanted the car, negotiated a little and gave my verbal agreement of purchase. That was on Saturday. By Tuesday, my H.R. rep had arranged for our school lawyer to meet at the school, with the couple and myself to sign over the papers. The lawyer’s fee was 400,000₡ ($633). This seems expensive but it included everything needed for me to drive my new car home that same day.

So for the purchase of my used, 4×4, Hyundai Tucson Limited, mechanic check, change over and all paperwork, I spent approx $15,400. This does not include the car insurance, that I was not required to purchase straight away. I have been quoted 303,000₡ ($480) for the year, for full car insurance. This is insanely inexpensive compared to the U.S. I thought car insurance was cheap in Qatar, at approx $1100/year, but this is amazing. Full car insurance in Philadelphia is about $250/mth.

The most difficult part of the entire process was two-fold. 1) Finding a car, 2) Finding a way to pay for it, when the majority of my money is not here. My job was super helpful with the whole process and made it easier. So far, I am pretty happy with my choice. Let the adventures begin…

Adjusting to Life in Costa Rica- 1 Month in…

It’s been a little over 1 month since I’ve moved to Costa Rica and I have gone through all four stages of culture shock at different times and some at the same time. I’ve moved through most of the stages in moments rather than days. Stage 1: The Honeymoon stage- There have been times, when I have been extremely happy with the move. I do not regret my decision in the least. Stage 2: The Frustration stage- Banking was frustrating, as is trying to find a car, so is being unable to hold a conversation with my Uber driver because my Spanish is minimal, and being cancelled by my Uber driver after waiting 8 minutes. This stage comes and goes due to bouts of loneliness too. Stage 3: The Adjustment Stage- I think, this stage takes the longest because I am constantly adjusting, especially mentally. Stage 4: Acceptance- Although I go through all stages here and there, ultimately, I understand that I must accept what is so that I can thrive in my new environment. I will admit that the hardest part has been doing this completely alone, no friends, no family, no familiarity.

I’ve moved into my condo, aka- apartment. I haven’t lived in a place this small since my first apartment right out of high school. It’s a lovely, top floor, 1-bedroom apartment. Since it’s in the central valley, where most people are located, Santa Ana to be exact, it’s pretty expensive compared to some other parts of this country. My rent is $850/mth. My housing allowance is $800. During my search for my place, I was torn between the one I chose and a 2-bedroom that would have run me $300 additional per month. I settled on the less expensive 1-bedroom to give myself time to adjust financially. My condo grounds are immaculate, very green and clean. It has a nice pool and a gym.

My place is an hour walk from work, a 15-20 minute Uber ride or a 25+ minute bus ride. I’ve done all three. I prefer to walk to get my cardio in, which is the only exercise I’ve accomplished so far. But walking home from work has proven difficult in the rainy season, which is the season we are currently in and I would prefer not to exhaust myself and get sweaty before work. The bus is cheap, only $0.49 but it takes the longest time and taking it means being out the house an hour before I’m due at work. The bus is my least favorite mode of transportation, not because anything is wrong with it. I just don’t like to take public transportation anywhere and you have to leave so early to ensure you make it on time. I use Uber most days. It runs me about $5.00 each way. Sometimes it takes a while to secure an Uber and sometimes they even cancel on you, so while it is convenient due to door to door service, it’s not the best either. So in summary, I’m looking for a car.

But cars are expensive here, about $3-5,000 more than in the U.S. Kia and Hyundai seem to be the most common brands here. Once you leave the main roads, the others can be quite rocky and underdeveloped so I believe a truck would work best. I definitely don’t want to run into the same problems I had in Qatar with a vehicle. That American car cost me an arm, leg and mental anguish. I was so happy to be through with it. So now I’m taking my time and being smarter with my car buying decisions. Having my own car would be super helpful right now. My new country is absolutely beautiful and I want to get out there and explore it more.

One of things I love the most about Costa Rica is the flora and fauna. This place is the complete opposite of Qatar in that area. I look outside of the window of my workspace and see so much green.

Every morning, I am greeted by bird sounds that I’ve never heard before and a red breast squirrel even greeted me on my balcony twice. I’ve been on two hikes, so far, and couldn’t stop snapping pictures of colorful flowers, breathtaking views and natural beauty. I assume a mix of this crazy rainy season and the fertility of the volcanic ash makes this place what it is- a paradise to the eyes, and I haven’t even scratched the surface.

For my birthday weekend, I borrowed the school van, (yes this is allowed which is a wonderful perk) and along with two other teachers drove down to Jaco (pronounced Ha-kō) beach. The scenery along the drive was beautiful. We stayed only one night, and the beach wasn’t swimmable but still it was a lovely time. I spotted a black squirrel, several iguanas, and some leaf cutter ants on the hotel grounds. This past weekend, Darryl flew down and we took a tour to the Arenal volcano. On this tour, we visited the Tres Generationes coffee plantation and had the best coffee we ever tasted. We also visited the Cinchono Waterfalls, which is in the center of the Americas. I felt like I was back in Hawaii standing in front of this waterfall. It looked identical to the ones Darryl and I had seen on the road to Hana and for the first time, and for a brief moment, we both admitted that maybe we could stay here instead of moving to Hawaii. It was on this tour that I saw a sloth in person for the first time, along with some other animals and Darryl got attacked by a Couti. More on that in another post. We zip-lined through the rainforest and I repelled down a mountain. Needless to say, the last two weekends have been full of fun.

As for daily life, I get up, go to work, come home, video chat with my hubby, cook, watch tv. The same things I was doing before, just in a different place. Work is definitely different here. Some days I love it, others I don’t. I work longer hours than I have in years and I’m quite busy. Resources are less than what I’m used to and the power goes out from time to time. I’m making less money but so far I’m still able to save. The natives are very pleasant; everyone speaks and smiles. The children are sweet and affectionate but are not used to sitting still. I’m not in the classroom 100% of the time so that’s a plus. I haven’t quite found my footing as the ECE Coordinator yet, but hopefully that will change. It’s a new position for the school and for me so I kinda feel like I’m on trial and not really sure where I fit. I just remember why I’m here and make the most of it. Twice a week, I attend free Spanish classes after school, which are needed, because everyone does NOT speak English. Learning Spanish will make life easier here. My Spanish is improving because I try to use it as much as possible. I want to learn it. One of my only regrets about Qatar was not learning the language before I left. Sure it wasn’t necessary but it would have been nice and I don’t want to make that mistake twice.

Moving abroad has it peaks and valleys especially in the beginning. Some days are easy. Some days are tough. So if you’re wondering how I’m doing, I’m adjusting…

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